(I used to write a bi-weekly
column, RadioRadio, for Players magazine in the Tampa Bay area.
The following story appeared in 1991.)
Mason Dixon on the Loose
Mason "Lee Roy Pee Wee Bodine Moonpie, et al." Dixon
is once again a restricted free agent.
The former Q105 afternoon personality and operations manager
was taken off the air last March from WRBQ after a decade of
high ratings, controversy, internal struggle and - in the end
- a pig in a poke. At the time, Dixon had a year left in his
high-priced contract with the station - a contract the Q is still
paying. The non-compete terms prohibited him from working in
the Tampa Bay market. It did allow him to seek employment outside
the Bay area, with his Q salary reduced by whatever he could
Early last fall, Dixon turned up in Birmingham, Al. at the
helm of WKXX (106 FM). He transformed the station into the "Power
Cow," a goofy satire on his former competition at WFLZ (93
FM) in Tampa, the Power Pig. Along for the ride was Brian Christopher,
Dixon's assistant at Q105.
It was a much heralded transformation for the Birmingham station
and a big opportunity for Dixon, generating a good deal of attention
in the radio industry.
But just before Christmas, on Dec. 21, Dixon and the Power
Cow burned leather.
"Mason picked up his toys and went in another direction,"
according to Brian Christopher, program director for the Power
Cow. "Over the course of six months, a lot of things didn't
come through for both sides. There was mutual disenchantment."
But, he hastens to add, "It wasn't hostile, mean or ugly."
Ratings - now, there's a surprise - were partly of this action.
"We were able to take this station from a 7 to a 4.9,"
says Christopher, sarcastically.
Dixon, reached by telephone at his rented Birmingham home,
says ratings were just part of the problem. Unkept promises of
new studios and promotion budgets, undisguised racism, plus the
hiring of Chris Murray as the station's new GM sealed Dixon's
fate. Murray was sales manager of Y107 in Nashville before going
to Birmingham. Y107 was owned by Jacor - parent of the Power
Pig, WFLZ, in Tampa - and former roost of current Pig PD Marc
Chase. After being humiliated by Jacor in Tampa Bay, Dixon couldn't
stand the thought of working in a Pig sty.
"(Murray) told me he was going to give us some pink vans
to cruise the area and we needed some urban music," according
to Dixon. "I said fine, you do what you want. I'm not going
to be part of a Jacor philosophy. I don't subscribe to their
philosophy or the way they do business."
Why was Dixon even in Birmingham?
"I was given a lot of promises," he says. "This
was a chance for me to get practice doing a morning show, perfect
a few things. Take the best of what I used to do in the afternoon,
the best of what Cleveland Wheeler used to be. I accomplished
"I was going to take a radio station that was the scum
of the earth for three years (and clean it up). Three years ago,
(WKXX) was a Power Pig. It had big black ratings, but you can't
sell that in Birmingham. What they wanted to do with this station
was bring it out of the doldrums and out of that black image.
(But) the advertising agencies are all run by whites. If you
have black ratings, they will not buy you. I've opened my eyes
to the New South and Birmingham, Alabama is not where I want
Then there was the lack of a promotions budget or promotions
director. Dixon has lots of examples, but one that sticks is
of 2,000 screaming teen-age girls at a shopping mall to see TV's
"Guys Next Door" in a promotion sponsored by the Power
Cow. Unfortunately, the station couldn't afford to buy a sign
advertising its call letters.
"In fairness to Mason," agrees Christopher, "I
don't think anyone could come from being a legend for 12 years
and pull it out just on charm." He says Dixon wasn't given
much money with which to position the station.
Christopher and Dixon were together a long time. When Dixon
was taken off the air at Q105, out went his lieutenants, Christopher
and Bobby Rich (now midday man at WUSA 101 FM). Christopher malingered
in Tampa, doing brief stints at the old WNLT and WFLZ before
following Dixon to Birmingham.
Now, it seems, not only is their professional relationship
over, but friendship is pretty tenuous as well.
"Let's just say my philosophical views on how things
should be done were very similar to new management's," says
Christopher, who is staying on at Kix 106. "Philosophically,
Mason and I, our ideas are changing. There's a big difference
in our ages, how we see things, how we see the world. The groundwork
has been laid for us to work apart."
"Brian had a little different attitude," says Dixon.
"He wanted (WKXX) to be more like the Power Pig. I pulled
it more adult. We didn't see eye-to-eye. I hope he does well.
It's time for him to try his wings. He's been in the Mason Dixon
shadow for a long time. If he succeeds, it's to my credit."
Christopher says the "New Kix 106" has already begun
de-emphasizing Dixon's Power Cow.
"It was fun to get people talking," he says. "It
has run its course in terms of establishing the radio station.
We're going to establish the cow as a mascot and use that to
market things, much as the Tookie Bird was to Q105. They never
called themselves Tookie 105. (The Power Cow) has run its course
on the air."
As for Dixon, the option on his Q105 contract may be renewed
in April or allowed to expire, permitting his return to Tampa
Bay radio. A year ago, a flusher WRBQ might have picked up that
option, keeping Moonpie at bay. Today, the under-performing station
is counting pennies while paying out two fat contracts, Dixon's
and Cleveland Wheeler's.
"They're kind of ... 'Oh, my God, we can't afford to
keep (paying) this,'" says Dixon. "These guys (at Q)
are saying, 'Make us an offer.' To which I say, I can't make
an offer until I can negotiate. Contractually, I can't really
negotiate with anybody (in Tampa)."
Dixon believes he may be allowed to begin negotiations with
a Tampa Bay station as early as this week and have his Q105 contract
bought out by Feb. 1 - especially if he can hook up with a station
that WRBQ considers non-threatening.
And don't doubt for a minute that Pee Wee wants to come home.
"We still have a home in Tampa," he says. "The
renters will be out by the end of the month. Yes, you will be
seeing me back in Tampa. At what point you'll be hearing me on
the air, I don't know."
And now, The Pledge. Remember it in a few months, okay?
"This is 1991, not 1990," says Mason Dixon. "1990
was not a very good year for me. That was then; this is now.
I have no ill feelings toward anyone. No antagonism. If I get
back on the air (in Tampa), I won't do any Q-bashing. Why kick
'em while they're down, anyway? I hope they come back. Nothing
would tickle me more than to see them beat the Power Pig. I am
not a fan of Jacor."
So the fun begins. What is Mason worth in today's market and
who wants him?
"I've had phone calls with several people," says
Dixon. "The feelers have been put out. I'm hoping over the
next few weeks I'll be able to meet with a few people. It's like
a fresh start. But where everybody else is at a standing start,
I've got a running start because of past accomplishments."
The rumor mill is ripe on this one.
"The big rumor is he'll surface here (in Tampa) when
the non-compete ends," says Jack Harris, morning personality
at the Power Pig. "We've all been speculating."
Top-rated country station WQYK (99 FM) is oft-mentioned. So
is WMTX (96 FM), the re-cast Lite rocker.
"I have talked to Mason frequently since he left 'RBQ
on a social and professional basis," admits Tom Rivers,
PD of WQYK. "Mason has my private number. If he calls to
say, 'Hi,' people think we're trying to work a deal. He's a great
broadcaster and of name value in this market. But as far as I'm
concerned, the dollars Mason would seem to need do not make him
viable for us. The other problem is where to put him? The entire
staff we have has been very good and hard-working. Who am I going
to replace to hire him? If it ain't broke, don't fix it. WQYK
doesn't appear broke; I'm going to be very reluctant to 'fix'
anything. I'm very happy with my staff."
Dixon doesn't think QYK would work out either, and not just
because the station can't afford him.
"While I like a little Randy Travis, Garth Brooks and
Kentucky Headhunters, I can't do what QYK is doing," he
says. "I'm not a country DJ. I like contemporary music.
Look for Dixon to be a free man soon (with Wheeler not far
Drumroll, Please! Please stop calling RadioRadio
asking for the latest count on ex-Q105 employees. What with all
the people who are being paid to not work, or not to do what
they're best at, we've completely lost track here at Mission
However ... Add five to the last figure you have. That's
the latest number to get their walking papers. The most familiar
name is Shauna Stevens, a 10-year veteran of the Q Morning Zoo
who was originally hired by Scott Shannon.
"It really falls under the line of cutting back for '91,"
says Q105 Operations Manager John Clay. "This station isn't
making the money it used to. We took care of what needed to be
taken care of from a budgeting standpoint."
Shauna, Shauna, Shauna! I spoke to Shauna Stevens on
Jan. 7, the day she was fired by Q105.
A little background: Stevens was the morning personality on
the old WAZE (860 AM) in Clearwater a decade ago, cracking wise,
spinning golden oldies. Scott Shannon - Cleveland Wheeler's original
partner - was late to work one day, caught her schtick and hired
her for WRBQ.
Stevens started from the bottom at 105 - overnights - and
worked her way up. When an office position on the Q Morning Zoo
opened up, she took it and gradually became part of the menagerie.
Some days she'd be heard in the background behind Wheeler and
McKeever or Wheeler and Harris. Other days she'd fill in for
Wheeler or co-host with him. She became an unofficial producer
of the morning show.
Here's what she had to say about being fired:
"This morning at 9 a.m., I had a job. At 9:02, I didn't.
"It was kind of a shock. I got called into the office
and the door was closed.
"I was still working on the FM. When the new morning
show (Mike Elliott and Kent Voss) took over, I was helping Cleveland
(on WRBQ 1380 AM), but I didn't do too much. They didn't want
anybody helping Cleveland. I screened calls for the FM show -
when there were calls - did my nails, caught up on the news ...
"I was told I was much too talented to be screening calls
and being a board op. I said, 'You're going to take this talent
and give it to some other station in the market?' That makes
sense to me. ... They might be thinking my loyalty was to Cleveland
and not Q105. That's the problem I had with Mason. He thought
I was loyal to the enemy camp - Cleveland. I think the gist of
everything is to get all the old blood out of there so there's
nobody who knows what the station was like before.
"When Cleveland was moved (to the AM) they said I still
had a job, it was no reflection on me. I went back again a month
ago and they said, 'We're going to keep all the good people.'
A month ago I was fine, now I'm not fine. But I'm 'very talented.'"
Stevens - who had no contract with the station - says she
would be paid through the end of January.
"Not bad for 10 years," she says. "Three weeks
pay, 60 seconds and boom, you're shown to the door.
"The relief," adds Stevens, "will be not hearing
people come up to me and saying, 'What are they doing to that
radio station?' I don't know - I don't work there anymore."
Q105: The Next Generation! Jay Taylor is the program
director at Q105. The station had been without a PD for months.
Taylor comes to the Q from KOUC in Las Vegas. ... Patti Cheek,
the Jacksonville real estate broker turned overnight disc jockey
on Q105 quietly was dropped from the station's rotation in October.
"It has to do with personal problems," says John Clay.
"Let's just say it didn't work out." She's been replaced
by Mark "Mojo" Allen, a former Dallas club jock who
knows Vanilla Ice personally ! Mojo comes highly recommended
to RadioRadio. And he's only 19. ... Is it true new hires
at Q105 are only being signed to 90-day contracts? The things
our grapevine hears ...
Q-Drive! Two more familiar aspects of Q105's traffic
patrol have moved on. Reporter Nancy Alexander - who recently
married former Q Morning Zoo cast member Ward Smith - is moving
into the sales department. And the station has apparently lost
the Bill Curry Ford account to WQYK (99 FM), judging by the Bill
Curry Courtesy Van's new home at the country station, with Marc
Miller behind the wheel.
War Watch! As we went to press, most stations in town
were considering how the Middle East conflict would affect normal
"The tone of everything you do on the radio changes if
you go to war," says Q105 Operations Director John Clay.
"It's hard to say, 'The latest war casualties are ... And
now here's the latest from Vanilla Ice.'"
Along that line, WTKN has switched from all-business to all-news
... and a little business. The station is now simulcasting CNN
Headline News for 15 minutes each hour on the hour from 6 a.m.-6
p.m. At other times, WTKN will offer the Business Radio Network,
Florida and local news with Kira Kinkead.
New Kid on the Hog! Welcome Hawk "The New Hoss
in the Saddle" Harrison, direct from Y107 in Nashville (beginning
to see a pattern here? Right - job openings in Nashville), the
new night-time jock at the Power Pig. He picks up Tim & Tom's
old 8 p.m.-midnight slot as the T&T boys move into Jon Anthony's
former 4-8 p.m. afternoon drive slot.
Also, Voncile Anderson, Q105 promotions director from 1978-85,
has taken the same post at Power 93.
Is That Anything Like Wingo? Which FM station's staff
has invented a game called "Dongo"? It's played behind
a certain executive's back. As in "Where'd Don go?"
Is It Live Or ... ! Word from 98 Rock (WXTB FM) is
that due to the popularity of the live remote broadcast of the
Every Mother's Nightmare concert on New Year's Eve, the station
will commence a monthly live show from area clubs. Shows will
feature new artists heard on the station.
Another addition to 98 is Al Keck doing sports in the morning.
The WTSP-TV Ch. 10 sportscaster will offer reports via telephone
during the All-Request Morning Show. 98 is mulling installation
of a fiber optic line direct from Keck's home to the station's
studios to improve audio quality. Sports reports begin Jan. 21
and can be heard at 6:50 a.m., 7:50 a.m. and 8:50 a.m.
Daddy Throws Best! Congrats to Jack and Joy Harris
who are expecting their first baby. Jack, 49, says, "I'll
be out there, on a walker, throwing the ball to the kid."
Mix This! WMTX - the new Mix 96 - will do live remotes
from the garage at Cold Storage in downtown Tampa during Super
Super Radio! Hey, sports fans, don't forget Chris Thomas
and Tedd Webb will be sharing their microphones during Super
Bowl week with the announcers from CBS. John Madden, Jack Buck,
Hank Stram and Greg Gumbel will be on location at area sports
bars with WFLA (970 AM) Monday (6-8 p.m.) and Tuesday-Friday
(6:30-8 p.m.). The station will also offer an extended pre-game
show live from Tampa Stadium beginning at 3 p.m. on Jan. 27 before
picking up the CBS network for live Super Bowl play-by-play.
U R Outta Here! Mark Myers' tenure at U92 is over.
He's been replaced by WNLT veteran Steve Michaels on weekends
and vacation fill-ins.
Program Notes! Here's a few WYNF (95 FM) specials to
note on your radio calendar:
Jan. 20, 10 p.m.: Billy Idol Concert
Jan. 21, 11 p.m.: Rockline guests include Jimmy Vaughan
Jan. 25, 6 a.m.: Ron & Ron kick off a 16-hour live remote
from Ybor Square as part of Super Carnivale de Ybor. Russ Albums,
Charlie Logan and Scott Phillips will all originate their shows
from Ybor as part of Super Bowl.
Jan 27, 10 p.m.: UpClose: Music and interviews with The Byrds
Jan. 29, 6-10 a.m.: David Lee Roth joins Ron & Ron live
in the studio to promote his new album, "A Little Ain't
Feb. 3 Neil Young Concert
Feb. 4, 11 p.m.: Rockline guests include Queen
Feb 10: UpClose: Music and interview with Phil Collins
Feb. 14: Rockline Special Edition with Sting
Country Gets Its Own! WQYK has joined a network of
country stations carrying their own monthly version of "Rockline"
called "Countryline USA." The show debuted in December
with Leeza Gibbons ("Entertainment Tonight") as host.
Clint Black will be guest on Jan. 29 at 10 p.m. Fans are invited
to talk to Black by calling toll-free 1-800-537-3774.
Back in the Saddle Again! Don't by shy - tell Dr. RadioRadio
what's on your mind. The address: RadioRadio, c/o Players, PO
Box 1867, Pinellas Park, FL 34664. Or fax us: (813) 578-1414.
All rights reserved. No portion may be reproduced without the
express written permission of the author.